The Innovation Narrative & the Learning Commons


Our libraries and Learning Commons are key to supporting innovation. Therefore, Librarians are at the heart of the innovation narrative that takes place in our schools. Librarians are facilitators of learning and knowledge building. Sometimes this is about technology, sometimes it is about other resources, but it is always about people. We don’t make changes (or shouldn’t make changes) for innovation in and of itself, but because it helps other people and fulfills the needs of a learning community. I think that this is at the heart of the Innovation story that we tell in our schools.


What is innovation? Is it a culture? A process? A principle? Mindset? Maybe it is all of these things at once. Whatever the basis is of our own unique Innovation narrative, we need to make it about our learners.

Anyone who has ever tried to innovate, knows that it can feel a lot like climbing the world’s largest mountain. And if you do in fact make it to the top, which side do you look over? Are you looking over a side with the newest disruptive technology? Are you looking out over another side and viewing social problems that need healing?  Innovating doesn’t always need to be part of a story that is disruptive or like moving a mountain. Sometimes powerful innovation comes from the ground level, and finding new ways to meet learner needs each day. 

 Librarians are there to serve our learning communities, and in an ever changing world, so too comes the ever changing demands. Innovation narratives are best told with the needs of the learners at the heart of our story. How will you know how to innovate if you do not know your community? Perhaps it is more like an ‘Innovative Dance’, as we do our best to move in sync with the new ideas, needs and wants of others. Always listening, checking assumptions, asking, and never forcing ideas. That Learning Commons is quite the busy place with the ongoing innovation going on!

The truth is, that innovation is ultimately a narrative about the needs of our learning communities. It is about finding new solutions to problems. How can we best serve the needs, problems, issues that are directly impacting our school and broader communities? The Learning Commons is all about this.

True innovation is more than just the progress of technology. Ultimately, it is about finding new solutions to problems – people problems. Learning problems. Not tech problems. This story involves:

  • vision
  • diverse perspectives
  • connections
  • negotiations
  • goal setting
  • managing challenges
  • collaborating
  • dealing with barriers including budgets, available resources, personalities, scheduling, physical space, capacity and other contextual variables

With these key ingredients of the innovation story in my mind, I am now wondering if Innovation is truly a new story for Libraries, or if it is an old story that we are continuing to perfect to meet the needs of our learners in the 21st century?

What do you think?

Deborah McCallum

c 2015





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